Health & Safety Guidelines  »  Staying Well

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance made in the body (mostly in the liver) and is in animal foods (dietary cholesterol), such as: Organ meats like liver; egg yolks, meats, poultry, and fish; and dairy products with fat. Plant foods have no cholesterol.

Total Blood Cholesterol Goal

Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL (“bad”) Cholesterol Goals

Deposits cholesterol in the artery walls.

Less than 70 mg/dL  »  If at “very high-risk.”

Less than 100 mg/dL  »  If at “high-risk.”

Less than 70 mg/dL  »  Optional goal for this risk level.

Less than 130 mg/dL  »  If at “moderate high-risk.”

Less than 100 mg/dL  »  Optional goal for this risk level.

Less than 160 mg/dL  »  If at “lower/moderate risk.”

{Note: Goals for LDL-cholesterol are based on your risk factors for heart disease. Ask your doctor what your heart disease risk level is.}

HDL (“good”) Cholesterol Goals

Helps remove cholesterol from the blood

40 mg/dL or higher for men

50 mg/dL or higher for women

Triglycerides Goal

Less than 150 mg/dL

Triglycerides are fat-like substances carried through the bloodstream to the tissues which store it for later use as energy. Triglycerides come from the fat in both animal and plant foods.

Ways to Reduce Cholesterol

  1. Take medications, if prescribed.

  2. Limit foods with saturated fats. Strictly limit trans fats. These are hydrogenated oils in foods, such as stick margarine and snack foods.

  3. Use salad dressings and margarines made with plant sterols and stanols (e.g., Benecol and Take Control brands.)

  4. Choose lean beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey. Limit serving sizes.

  5. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables (5 to 7 or more servings/day) and whole-grain products (6 or more servings/day).

  6. Get 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber a day.

  7. Eat fish 2 to 3 times a week (especially ones high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon).

  8. Use nonfat and low-fat dairy products.

  9. Limit dietary cholesterol to 300 mg. per day (200 mg. if your cholesterol is elevated).

  10. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. (See “Use Alcohol Wisely”.)

  11. Be physically active.

Ways to Reduce Triglycerides

  1. Lose weight if you are overweight. Follow a low-fat diet. Limit alcohol, sugar, and foods with sugar.

  2. Get regular exercise.

  3. Take medications, if prescribed.


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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute